It's always about the money.

No AI 4 U

Disney and media conglomerate NBCUniversal are both watching a proposed New York law that would bar them from lucrative state tax breaks if they use artificial intelligence to replace human talent.

As Bloomberg Law reports, both companies have their well-paid lobbyists keeping an eye on the bill introduced earlier this summer — even as much of Hollywood's workforce is on strike over the industry's keen interest in using generative AI to save on human labor.

Assembly member Demond Meeks, who sponsored the bill in the New York State Assembly, told Bloomberg Law the attention from Disney and NBC "doesn't surprise" him.

"Big business tends to look for quick ways to save money and, you know, this may be another means of that," he added.

While we don't know how far the proposed legislation will go — or if it ever stands a chance of being signed into law — the news highlights how lawmakers could take a stance, protecting writers and actors from being replaced by AI.

Big Bucks

Lobbyists for the companies told the news outlet that it's standard practice to watch bills that could affect their clients, but few of those bills could result in the loss of multi-million dollar tax breaks.

Indeed, NBCUniversal has gotten a whopping $96.7 million in tax credits since the start of 2022 for filming in the Empire State, while Disney got $10.9 million for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" and "Monster Island," according to Bloomberg Law.

In total, the program now offers $700 million in tax breaks to entertainment companies for filming in New York, though as the New York Post reported back when the bill was first introduced in May, it's unclear how much of that would be on the line in the new legislation.

Regardless of the total, however, there's still a lot of money on the line if the bill is signed into law — and as Disney's AI-crazed CEO Bob Iger has stated publicly, he is more than ready to give it the green light once some of the technology's kinks are ironed out.

"I can tell you that our legal team is working overtime already to try to come to grips with what could be some of the challenges here," Iger said on a May 10 earnings call in which he described his "bullish" interest in AI.

While there's no word yet on which way New York Governor Kathy Hochul will sway in this debate, it nevertheless has garnered the attention of some of the industry's heaviest hitters — and if the bill passes, it certainly could be a win for those who come down on the side of human talent over AI.

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